Monday, October 12, 2009

Autumn Leaves and Zebra Stripes

After my DNF at Akron I swore off running marathons--for all of 6 hours. By that evening mrp and I were discussing plan B over dinner. We did not think travel for a marathon made any sense so the only real alternative was the Towpath Marathon two weeks and one day after Akron. So, I decided to see how things went for a week or so and then decide whether a fall marathon was worth another shot. I still felt crappy all week, but even so I felt like I needed to close the chapter on this season of marathon training and the only real way to do it was to run one. Mrp agreed and he also agreed to enter it and run it with me as long as he could--it would be a family effort.

My legs felt good enough early last week and mentally I wrapped my head around the idea that a pr was a long shot after a stressful few weeks and questionable training and taper (for another post). And I was really ok about it. Yes, disappointed to an extent, but overall accepting. So, on Wednesday, mrp signed us up.

It must be noted here that my wonderful mrp has not been running much this year. He has other fish to fry these days and his training has been left on the back burner. On a good week he's run 12 miles. On a bad week, maybe 4. Yeah, not the best marathon training! Even to run with me. So, it was extra special of him to do this for me. Awwww!

Anyway, so after another hectic week--this time spent hustling to rent my house. We were successful on Saturday--finally!!!--Sunday came and it was time to go. My mother came over to watch the nut and mrp and I snuck out by cover of darkness. It was cold! But the forecast was more or less perfect for a marathon. We made our way down the highway to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. As we descended down the hills to the river valley the mist rose from the river silhouetted by the sunrise. Once where we needed to be we found MN who kindly picked up our packets and hit the porta-potties (which were about a 1/4 mile away from the parking lot--the hell?) Then we ran back to our cars in the frigid morning air and got ready. My feet were FROZEN. They were numb, y'all. Nothing a warm-up wouldn't cure, I thought. I suited up with the zebra-striped arm warmers I borrowed from E, my race team singlet, favorite black shorts, favorite Mizuno Elixirs, throw-away purple stretch gloves and some bodyglide to boot. I looked like a clown, but felt ready to roll.

The starting line was about a half mile from the porta-potties. That just seems dumb for such a small race. It worked out for me. I used the distance to do a mile warm-up with a few pick-ups. One thing several people mentioned to me post-Akron was that I should try a warm-up. So I did. Unfortunately I arrived at the starting line with numb feet. I found mrp. I told him it felt like my socks were bunched up between my toes. I took of a shoe to check and they weren't. My feet felt like stumps. Ugh. Oh well. They'd warm-up. I hoped!

The bell finally sounded and we were off. Mrp and me in a big swarm of running humanity. Oh. I didn't wear a watch. Well, I did, but I covered the face with blue tape so I couldn't see it. Yesterday I ran completely by feel and I did not sweat any of the splits, well at least I didn't sweat most of them. Mrp had his watch, but he was under strict orders to keep the data to himself. I was nervous about letting go like this, but it was great not knowing. Really!

Anyway, as the runners made there way down the road for about .75 miles and then hit the autumn leaf decorated trail, I was the fourth woman. The race was so small I could see pretty much everyone in front as we made the turn. By mile 2 I was third. By mile 5 I was second and by mile 6 I passed my friend TG who happened to be using the race to motivate her along her training run. So, I was now first (both officially and unofficially). Also by 6 my feet FINALLY thawed out enough that I could feel them. By 7 my toe hurt really bad. But after the turn-around at 8 it felt fine. Go figure.

The first turn-around was a great point in the race. As the first woman all the runners still headed out were very excited to see me and cheer for me. It was exhilarating. I'm sure all the smiles they gave me added up to something. By mile 11, I had reached the end of the running spectators and it was back to mrp and me. Well, and a guy in orange who decided he'd tell me my split was 7:10. I told him I didn't want to know. Also around this time I felt like I had to poop. (Sorry. I am just going to put it out there. We're all [well, mostly] runners here so why tip-toe around it.) I told mrp and he said, "no you don't." And I have to say that actually helped! For a while.

Then we hit mile 12 and the orange dude came up on us and said, "7:20!" I yelled at him this time. "Dude! I said I don't want to know!" He had headphones on. Ugh. He got huffy and said, "Fine!" and ran on ahead. Mrp was really pissed at the guy. I have to say I really didn't want to know I had slowed down.

We hit the half-marathon point and I felt pretty good. I knew my friends would be at the next aid station and that they'd be excited to see me in first. They were and it really meant a lot! I needed their support!

After my friends my next checkpoint was going by the finish at mile 15. We made it and I still felt pretty good, but once we passed it the poopy feeling came back. Around mile 16 we caught back up to orange guy and tried to pass him but he said, "Oh good. I was getting lonely. I'll pace off of you guys." Mrp had gotten a little ahead of me trying to pull me a long and prevent me from slowing more. I was stuck with orange guy who kept trying to chit-chat while I just wanted to poop! I finally broke away and got close enough to mrp to tell him I was going to make a pit stop. I saw a sign for a porta-potty before the next aid station. I can make! I can make it! I repeated to myself! We came to the aid station and there was no porta-potty in sight. Crap! Literally!!! We kept going and I thought I might poop my pants. But just ahead was a little offshoot of the trail and by some miracle someone had left a cloth there for me! Haha. Sorry everyone! So I scooted off the trail and did what I had to do. Mrp timed me. What a sweetheart. 48 seconds to poop. Not bad! I thought another woman might pass me. There were a few of them fairly close at the 8 mile turn-around. None did. Orange guy of course got back ahead, but so what.

I felt a lot better, but the stop made it difficult for both of us to get back down to pace. I was pretty sure we slowed a bit, but it didn't feel too bad. I had NO idea what pace we were on. When I needed a boost I could pretend I was on pace for a pr. I wasn't, but I never had to mull that over in my head and feel disappointed. Seriously. It was great! I might never wear a watch in a race again!

Now the focus was on the next turn around somewhere after mile 20. Mrp was ahead of me. I thought maybe he felt good and was just going to break away and finish strong. No. I maintained contact. I just needed to get to 20 now. Finally, 20 came and went. Now I needed to get to the turnaround. Finally, the turnaround. Only it was a hairpin. Just what any marathoner needs at mile 20.25--a hairpin turn! Mrp went first and had to stop to get around it. So did I. Yuck. But now I was back with him. And then I saw three other women breathing down my neck. They were closing in. It was hard again to get back to pace after the stop. But I felt like I was ready to push. At 21 mrp said, "Ok. Now is the time to remember why you're here. Go get the orange guy!" And with that I took off. It only took me about a mile to catch orange guy. And then I passed every other guy in sight except one who had picked it up more than I had. I took the tape off my watch and saw the split going past 8:00. Wha?! Thankfully the next split was 6:58. I felt like I was hammering, but I think the 8:00 was long and the 6:58 short--in retrospect.

But yeah. I felt like I was hammering. By 24 I started to worry I couldn't make it. My legs were leaden. I felt woosy. I took a gel at 22, but I'm not sure it helped. My next target was a road I needed to cross around 24.5. This half mile took forever. I saw Bob the mailman. He cheered for me in his dry style. And I loved it. Then I saw my old friend M from work. And then the road. I passed the road and knew it was less than 2 to go. Go go go!! I bulldozed all thoughts and just ran. I needed to go forward. I disregarded my watch. Left foot. Right foot. They're coming for you. Go. Win!

I came to mile 25. Still over a mile. Go. Go. Go. Left. Right. Left. Right. Ow. Shut up. Run.

I knew I was close, but I couldn't see the finish and my mind was afraid to admit I was close without the finish in sight. There was a little bump of a hill and over it was the last road to cross and the finish was right after that. I knew that. But I could not see the finish over the bump. Someone told me the finish was over the bump. But I still could not let myself admit I was almost done because if it wasn't close, I would not make it.

I crested the bump. I saw the street. I crossed the street. I saw matted grass next to a barn with an arrow pointed in that direction. I followed it and bumped along the grass and then onto some dirt and across the mats and into the arms of a race official who held me upright. I won! My time was 3:16:45.

I was not disappointed by that. It's not what I had hoped, but I know I did my best. Yesterday was a real victory for me.

I stumbled around waiting for mrp. I saw the next woman finish about 45 seconds after me and then the next one a few seconds later. But still no mrp.

E found me. "Tell me you ate something blue," she said. "Your lips are blue!" She dressed me in her fleece, scarf and hat. I looked (and smelled for that matter) homeless, she said. I got a banana. But it was cold. It made me colder. I felt light headed. Not right. Finally mrp came in. 3:28 and change. Just 40 minutes off his pr! Training is a good thing, he said.

I was still blue. No mylar. My bag was in the car about 1/2 a mile away--a world away. We ran into another friend B who gave me another sweatshirt and her and E took me in the bathroom and made me stand in front of the hand dryer. It helped a bit. But then it was just time to go. I wasn't going to get warm with all the wet stuff on me and peanut needed us home. I gathered my prize (a beautiful photo of the Cuyahoga Valley in the fall plus a fleece vest) and E walked mrp and me to the car. I was almost instantly better once there and I took off my wet clothes. But this is the second time I was hypothermic after a marathon! Oh the stories we will tell peanut.

Mrp and I drove home and we rehashed and speculated and had a grand time of it. We called home and heard peanut joyfully babbling in the background, so we stopped for a burrito on the way home. Blue tape, autumn leaves, zebra stripes, poop breaks, blue lips, true friends and beautiful companions. It really was a perfect day.


joe positive said...

awesome! both the report and the race :-)

Mnowac said...

Nice job out there L, you looked great. What a trouper MRP is to get out there and race on no training! You guys make it look too easy!

Mimi said...

Beautiful post. I always read your blog because you keep it all in perspective and I appreciate that so much. You freak out (like me) and then come back round to peace. Congratulations!

Mindi said...

GREAT JOB! MRP is quite the keeper!

Glenn said...

Started to read your post and had Deja Vu' feelings...intended on running Towpath as my goal race for time but at the last minute as chance would have it signed up for Akron...Sunday before. Very little taper..long story...I ran about what I wanted to at didn't care what happened Oct. 11th. As fate would have it, blazed out way too fast, only to pay for it and finish 18 minutes slower on a flat course. Go getem' girl..

oncearunner said...

Great job! I'm so happy to hear you bounced back so well. Love your race reports.

Katie Gregory said...

Great job! Like Mimi said, I always like to read your blog because of how well you're able to keep perspective. Congratulations on the win!

And I forgot to say congrats re: the adjunct gig that you posted about last time. Congrats all around!

DC Running Mama said...

Despite not having the race you hoped for, it was still a great capping experience for this past year and amazing for a mom on a NOT YET one year old. It just seems fitting that MRP ran with you and that friends and family surrounded you during the race.

Viper said...

Congrats on the win and enjoying the race! You touched on what I don't like about the Towpath: the long lonely walk to the start and the unfun hairpin turnaround. Way to crush the annoying orange guy. Cheers!